WHEN Thanamletchumy Nadason was offered a sewing and tailoring course instead of her preferred choice of computer programming at the Young Women’s Christian Association of Kuala Lumpur (YWCAKL), she was disheartened.

“I was never interested in sewing, especially learning to operate a sewing machine, measuring and figuring out different presser foots,” recalled Thanamletchumy.

But as the days went by, she became more interested in the sewing course.

“I realised sewing isn’t as difficult as it seemed. My first project, an A-line skirt, turned out well and it inspired me to persevere. Having patient instructors worked wonders too,” says Thanamletchumy, 44, who signed up for her sewing class in 2000.

Now Thanamletchumy is back in YCWAKL as a sewing instructor. For the last 15 years, she has been teaching students how to sew items like tote bags, dresses, curtains and saree blouses.

The YWCA Vocational Training Opportunity Centre (VTOC) also offers a course on baking.

“With my skills and experience, I am able to impart my knowledge to my students.

“With the salary earned, I am able to live independently, travel overseas and save enough to buy a car. My biggest dream is to own a house,” says Thanamletchumy, who grew up in a shelter home after being abandoned by her parents when she was seven.

YWCAKL’s Vocational Training Opportunity Centre (VTOC) provides vocational skills training for poor girls and young women, irrespective of race, religion, social and cultural differences.

They offer courses such as culinary and bakery, hairdressing, beauty care, sewing and tailoring, early childhood education and commerce.

The centre aims to empower girls and women with skills to be entrepreneurs and build their self esteem. Students are between 17 and 25 years old.

Since its formation in 1988, the centre has enabled 1,600 women to become self-reliant by equipping them with income-generating skills. Many graduates have secured jobs such as kindergarten teachers, hairdressers and seamstress.

Having practical skills will also improve young girls’ self esteem, says Yeoh. — Photos: YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

YWCAKL president Joanne Yeoh says the centre was set up to empower underprivileged young women and girls who lack guidance and opportunities. Each year, VTOC accepts 100 girls.

“A person who isn’t academically inclined can excel in skills like sewing, baking or hairstyling. It is a matter of tapping into their skills and honing their talents. We have social enterprise programmes to enable them to venture into business. It’s our vision to enable these girls to be independent and empowered in future undertakings,” Yeoh says.

As students come from financially difficult backgrounds, they are only required to contribute a minimal sum of RM100 per month. Funds cover lodging, meals and course material. Yeoh is thankful generous corporations have stepped forward to fund operational courses which can amount to RM1.5mil per year.

“The one-year residential programme also includes English enrichment, e-commerce and computer literacy courses, certificate and diploma programmes, ethics and good behaviour classes. Extra funding allows the centre to run more programmes to boost students’ confidence and determination to face challenges in the working world,” explains Yeoh, 60.

Handstitched cotton bags will be sold tomorrow to raise funds for the vocational training centre.

In conjunction with VTOC’s 20th anniversary, YWCAKL is hosting a Pop Up Social Enterprise Estate tomorrow. There will be a festive market selling Christmas cookies, and cakes; pop-up salon; and pop-up shop selling cloth bags, clutches and purses.

“Our students have been working tirelessly to prepare items including chutneys, cupcakes, biscuits and handicraft. Not to be missed is the express manicure pit stop for those who want to do their nails. There is also a fashion show, featuring outfits designed by our talented students,” says Teoh, adding part of the sales proceeds go back to students.

YWCAKL’s Pop Up Social Enterprise Estate happens tomorrow at YWCAKL, 12 Jalan Hang Jebat, KL. Time:10.30am-5pm. For more details, call 012-393 1225 or email: ywcakualalumpur1913@yahoo.com or visit www.ywcakl.org.my.